Monday, November 05, 2007

comparing Air Transat, Air Canada Fares to Costa Rica

Update Traveled Transat Costa Rica
Today I ventured back to the Air Transat site. I had looked earlier under their packages for 'Latin America' (assuming that would include Costa Rica, silly me!) and found the link inactive. So when I looked more closely today, I clicked the 'South' link -- and there was Costa Rica.

The Transat site is easy to use - pick your departure city, enter dates in the easiest-to-use calendar I've seen, and choose a destination, scroll down and click GO.

Up come 34 possible tour packages (with fast loading itinerary and hotel details, pics and info) for February 5 departures to San Juan CR. I noticed one for Costa Rica Eco-tour, for 8 days, 7 nights, air, airport pickup and delivery, tour, hotel, most meals, and taxes. I looked at the itinerary, then curious as to what the single supplement would be, I clicked through to the Book Now pages. When I entered my data, I got an alert asking me to call the 1-800 number to book.

So I called, waited a minute or two for a person to answer, and told her my story. It seems this tour, plus another one I hadn't yet looked at called the Costa Rica Natural something - also 8 days, 7 nights, most meals, etc as the eco-tour one -- had to be booked via phone. If fewer than 6 people booked these tours, they'd be cancelled with the cancellation notice (or confirmation notice depending on how you look at it) delivered no later than 30 days before departure.

The booking agent stressed that the tour could get the required minimum bookings next week, next month, etc and I'd be among the first to know. But it did give me pause for thought : Fast forward to January 6, 2008. In comes a call or email from Transat saying "gosh -- too bad." And me scrambling to book something else or stay home.

She gave me fares for both tours, and both were only $250 or so above the double/triple occupancy, and told the air only price.

So here's where I stand right now.

Transat tours: Eco $2,169; Natural wonder $2,219. Drawback -- no final confirmation until 30 days prior, and one day less than another tour I am considering.

FIT (foreign independent travel -- a DIY holiday): Land only tour Costa Rica (day longer than Transat) including taxes and single supplement $1,280; Transat air only $600 including taxes; Air Canada air only Feb 6 return Feb 16 $950; Return Feb 18 $875.

Total FIT
Transat flight -- $1,280 + $600 = $1880 (9 days, 8 nights), extra night hotel*, departs 6:35 am
Transat flight -- $1,280 + $840 = $2,120 (9 days, 8 nights), extra night hotel*
Air Canada flight - $1,280 + $950 = $2,230 plus extra night(s) hotel*, departs a more civilized 9:15 a.m.
Air Canada flight - $1,280 + $875 = $2,155 plus extra night(s) hotel*
Total Transat holiday (Nolitour) $2,169 or $2,219 (8 days, 7 nights)

The difference between the lowest and the highest is about $350. Not a huge amount, to be sure, but that would pay for optional tours, tips, extra meals, etc.

With Transat, you can upgrade to a premium class for $240 tax-in return. this might be worth it as Transat, from my experience, crams seats more tightly than even Air Canada dares to. But they did offer seat selection for a few dollars and that is well worth it . (After a horrible 5 plus hour flight to Acapulco, I paid more for a roomier seat to Puerto Plata DR and got upgraded to first when they sold my seat twice.)

* Have to find out what extra nights cost, to see if worth it to stay extra nights to save on air fare. I suspect staying is the wiser option. After all, there must be something to do in San Juan, even if it's only to lie around the pool sipping rum punches and thinking of snow in Toronto.

Again, I'll sit on this for a few days and mull it over, and go have another look at the itineraries for all three land tours. They are fairly close, though the eco-tour includes white water sstuff that I could most likely do without. I do want the volcanoes, the spa and the cloud forest, etc. I can give the turtles a miss (I've done that in Sri Lanka and in Sabah), and I don't require a lot of beach time. An afternoon snorkeling will do nicely.

PS December 11/07
I haven't booked anything yet. I've mulled it over and am still not sure which way to proceed. Still thinking of Bermuda, but maybe when it's warmer.

PPS December 26, 2007
Finally booked my trip and it's to Puerto Plata Dominican Republic!
I'm as surprised as you are :-)

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